Lansdowne business

Bryan Herndon, an engineer technician, discusses the extreme temperature tests performed in the environmental screening chamber at TMD Technologies in Lansdowne on May 16. TMD Technologies, a subsidiary of a U.K. based company, has opened an office in Lansdowne, for sales, service and repair of microwave power modules used in radar communication. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / May 15, 2014)

They don't fix microwave ovens. But those at TMD Technologies of Lansdowne are very familiar with high power microwave technology.

The company is currently settling into a 6,000 square foot facility in the Beltway Business Park on Twin Springs Road, which will serve as the U.S. headquarters for the U.K. based company, said Bob Gillette, operations manager of the facility in Lansdowne.

The company manufactures, sells and repairs microwave power tubes, microwave amplifiers, transmitters and high voltage power supplies sold mainly to the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force.

The parts are used in UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) better known as "drones,"' as well as helicopters, other aircraft and other equipment, and the military currently has about 2,500 individual units manufactured by the company in its arsenal, Gillette said.

"It became a logistics and economic problem to service [the units]," Gillette said, "The goal of this facility is to be a sales and service center. We can do the sales and service here, but the products are built in London."

The company signed its lease for the facility in October 2012, and has been slowly hiring employees since, Gillette said.

The company decided to open its U.S. headquarters in Lansdowne because of the convenient location and talent pool in the area, said David Brown, managing director of the company.

"It's a great area because of its flexibility and vicinity to three international airports," Brown said. "We can also recruit quite easily in the area."

Brown and Howard Smith, co-owner of the company, agreed that the access to universities was also a factor in selecting the local site.

"In the U.K., we have a strong relationship with universities and we hope to have that here," Smith said. "But right now, we're just taking the steps to become established."

TMD Technologies traces its roots to EMI Central Research Laboratories in the U.K. During and after World War II, the laboratories developed radar equipment and microwave devices.

Currently, the U.K. operation consists of a 90,000 square foot factory in London with 150 employees, where microwave tubes and microwave power supply equipment is manufactured, repaired and sold.

The space on Twin Springs Road will eventually have four product lines, though only one is up and running now, Gillette said.

The many rooms of the office space are currently sparse.

But Gillette said they foresee filling the rooms with additional employees and cubicles soon.

In a laboratory in the rear of the building where products are repaired, it's a requirement to wear an anti-static laboratory coat before entering in order to protect the electronic equipment in the room from static damage, Gillette said.

The room, which also has an anti-static floor, is full of testing equipment worth roughly $100,000. Among the equipment is an "altitude chamber," that simulates high and low altitude environments where equipment may be used. The equipment is tested in the chamber to meet safety standards, Gillette said.

Those in the room are advised not to touch anything because the static energy their hand may produce can damage the equipment, Gillette said.

Technicians are required to wear special wrist straps when testing equipment in the room in order to test static energy levels. The room is also temperature controlled to protect the equipment from humidity.

The company has spent nearly $2 million hiring new staff and acquiring the facility, Gillette said.

Nearly $80,000 has been spent to upgrade the infrastructure of the building, he said.

The company has an annual revenue of $50 million and expects the U.S. office will generate an additional $20 million annually, Gillette said.

Of its six employees in the U.S., four work in the Lansdowne office and two salesmen are based out of San Jose, California.

There are plans to hire four more technicians, Gillette said.

"It's great to have a new business [in Lansdowne]," said Wayne McDowell, president of the Lansdowne Business and Professional Association. "Mainly for the new employment opportunities it provides to residents."